Regional ambient temperature is associated with human personality

An Author Correction to this article was published on 01 December 2017

This article has been updated (view changelog)

Abstract

Human personality traits differ across geographical regions1,2,3,4,5. However, it remains unclear what generates these geographical personality differences. Because humans constantly experience and react to ambient temperature, we propose that temperature is a crucial environmental factor that is associated with individuals’ habitual behavioural patterns and, therefore, with fundamental dimensions of personality. To test the relationship between ambient temperature and personality, we conducted two large-scale studies in two geographically large yet culturally distinct countries: China and the United States. Using data from 59 Chinese cities (N = 5,587), multilevel analyses and machine learning analyses revealed that compared with individuals who grew up in regions with less clement temperatures, individuals who grew up in regions with more clement temperatures (that is, closer to 22 °C) scored higher on personality factors related to socialization and stability (agreeableness, conscientiousness, and emotional stability) and personal growth and plasticity (extraversion and openness to experience). These relationships between temperature clemency and personality factors were replicated in a larger dataset of 12,499 ZIP-code level locations (the lowest geographical level feasible) in the United States (N = 1,660,638). Taken together, our findings provide a perspective on how and why personalities vary across geographical regions beyond past theories (subsistence style theory, selective migration theory and pathogen prevalence theory). As climate change continues across the world, we may also observe concomitant changes in human personality.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Temperature clemency and personality scores of the 59 Chinese continental cities.
Fig. 2: Standardized partial effect sizes of the predictor variables in the full multilevel models (calculated by t-to-r transformation).
Fig. 3: Variable importance plots of the predictor variables in machine-learning analyses.

Change history

  • 01 December 2017

    In the Supplementary Information file originally published for this Letter, in three places ‘conscientiousness’ was mistakenly written ‘contentiousness’, and on page 11, ‘second’ should have read ‘secondary’, and ‘third’ should have read ‘tertiary’. These errors have been corrected.

References

  1. 1.

    Allik, J. & McCrae, R. R. Toward a geography of personality traits: patterns of profiles across 36 cultures. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 35, 13–28 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    McCrae, R. R. & Terracciano, A. Personality profiles of cultures: aggregate personality traits. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 89, 407–425 (2005).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Rentfrow, P. J., Gosling, S. D. & Potter, J. A theory of the emergence, persistence, and expression of geographic variation in psychological characteristics. Perspect. Psychol. Sci. 3, 339–369 (2008).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Rentfrow, P. J. & Jokela, M. in The Praeger Handbook of Personality Across Cultures Vol. 1 (ed. Church, A. T.) 225–249 (Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 2017).

  5. 5.

    Schmitt, D. P., Allik, J., McCrae, R. R. & Benet-Martínez, V. The geographic distribution of Big Five personality traits patterns and profiles of human self-description across 56 nations. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 38, 173–212 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Obschonka, M., Schmitt-Rodermund, E., Silbereisen, R. K., Gosling, S. D. & Potter, J. The regional distribution and correlates of an entrepreneurship-prone personality profile in the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom: a socioecological perspective. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 105, 104–122 (2013).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Talhelm, T. et al. Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture. Science 344, 603–608 (2014).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Guilford, J. P. Personality 383–384 (McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1959).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Goldberg, L. R. The development of markers for the Big-Five factor structure. Psychol. Assess. 4, 26–42 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Digman, J. M. Higher-order factors of the Big Five. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 73, 1246–1256 (1997).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    DeYoung, C. G. Higher-order factors of the Big Five in a multi-informant sample. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 91, 1138–1151 (2006).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Van de Vliert, E. in The Praeger Handbook of Personality Across Cultures Vol. 3 (ed. Church, A. T.) 117–148 (Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 2017).

  13. 13.

    Van de Vliert, E., Yang, H., Wang, Y. & Ren, X. Climato-economic imprints on Chinese collectivism. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 44, 589–605 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Van de Vliert, E. Climato-economic habitats support patterns of human needs, stresses, and freedoms. Behav. Brain Sci. 36, 465–521 (2013).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Van de Vliert, E. in Advances in Culture and Psychology Vol. 3 (eds Gelfand, M. J., Chiu, C. & Hong, Y.) 227–282 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2013).

  16. 16.

    Cohen, L. E. & Felson, M. Social change and crime rate trends: a routine activity approach. Am. Sociol. Rev. 44, 588–608 (1979).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    IJzerman, H. et al. A theory of social thermoregulation in human primates. Front. Psychol. 6, 464 (2015).

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Ainsworth, M. D. S. & Bell, S. M. Attachment, exploration, and separation: illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Dev. 41, 49–67 (1970).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Caspi, A. & Roberts, B. W. Personality development across the life course: the argument for change and continuity. Psychol. Inq. 2, 49–66 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Triandis, H. C. & Suh, E. M. Cultural influences on personality. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 53, 133–160 (2002).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Chiaburu, D. S., Oh, I.-S., Berry, C. M., Li, N. & Gardner, R. G. The five-factor model of personality traits and organizational citizenship behaviors: a meta-analysis. J. Appl. Psychol. 96, 1140–1166 (2011).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Cunningham, M. R. Weather, mood, and helping behavior: quasi experiments with the sunshine samaritan. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 37, 1947–1956 (1979).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Fetterman, A. K., Wilkowski, B. M. & Robinson, M. D. On feeling warm and being warm: daily perceptions of physical warmth fluctuate with interpersonal warmth. Soc. Psychol. Person. Sci. http://doi.org/10.1177%2F1948550617712032 (2017).

  24. 24.

    Tucker, P. & Gilliland, J. The effect of season and weather on physical activity: a systematic review. Public Health 121, 909–922 (2007).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    McCrae, R. R., Terracciano, A., Realo, A. & Allik, J. Climatic warmth and national wealth: some culture‐level determinants of national character stereotypes. Eur. J. Pers. 21, 953–976 (2007).

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Hofstede, G. & McCrae, R. R. Personality and culture revisited: linking traits and dimensions of culture. Cross Cul. Res. 38, 52–88 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Gelfand, M. J., Harrington, J. & Fernandez, J. in The Praeger Handbook of Personality Across Cultures Vol. 3 (ed. Church, A. T.) 207–236 (Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 2017).

  28. 28.

    Uskul, A. K., Kitayama, S. & Nisbett, R. E. Ecocultural basis of cognition: farmers and fishermen are more holistic than herders. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 8552–8556 (2008).

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Murray, D. R. & Schaller, M. in The Praeger Handbook of Personality Across Cultures Vol. 3 (ed. Church, A. T.) 87–116 (Praeger, Santa Barbara, CA, 2017).

  30. 30.

    Elliot, S. L., Blanford, S. & Thomas, M. B. Host–pathogen interactions in a varying environment: temperature, behavioural fever and fitness. P. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 269, 1599–1607 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Roberts, B. W., Walton, K. E. & Viechtbauer, W. Patterns of mean-level change in personality traits across the life course: a meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychol. Bull. 132, 1–25 (2006).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    IJzerman, H. & Hogerzeil, L. in The Oxford Handbook of Human Essence (eds van Zomeren, M. & Dovidio, J. F.) 83–94 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2017).

  33. 33.

    IJzerman, H. et al. The human penguin project: social integration protects against cold climates. Preprint at https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/6B7NE (2017).

  34. 34.

    Van de Vliert, E. Climatoeconomic roots of survival versus self-expression cultures. J. Cross Cult. Psychol. 38, 156–172 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Fischer, R. & Van de Vliert, E. Does climate undermine well-being? A 58-nation study. Pers. Soc. Psychol. Bull. 37, 1031–1041 (2011).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Soto, C. J., John, O. P., Gosling, S. D. & Potter, J. The developmental psychometrics of big five self-reports: acquiescence, factor structure, coherence, and differentiation from ages 10 to 20. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 94, 718–737 (2008).

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Steinmetz, J. & Posten, A.-C. Physical temperature affects response behavior. J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 70, 294–300 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research is partly supported by the National Science Foundation of China (NSFC) grant no. 91224008 and no. 91324201 and the Foundation of Beijing Key Laboratory of Behavior and Mental Health grant no. Z151100001615053 to L.W. We are grateful to V. Benet-Martínez, M. Morris, and E. Page-Gould for their valuable insights, and C. Chen, J. Chen, X. Di, Y. Huang, J. Jiang, M. Jiang, D. Li, M. Li, C. Liu, Y. Ma, J. Ma, L. Peng, L. Qiao, L. Ren, P. Wang, H. Yu, J. Zhang, M. Zhou and other graduate students working with L.W. for their help with data collection. We thank the China Meteorological Administration for providing the climate data and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention for providing the disease data. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

L.W. conceived the core research idea. W.W., J.G.L., A.D.G. and L.W. designed the research. W.W., J.G.L., H.W., S.D.G., P.J.R., W.Y., Q.Z., Y.G., M.Z., W.G., X.Y.G., J.P., J.W., B.L., X.L., Y.M.H., M.L., X.Q.G., Y.C., W.L., K.Y., Q.B., Z.S., Y.H., and L.W. performed the research. W.W., J.G.L., H.W., W.Y. and L.W. analysed the data. W.W., J.G.L., A.D.G., S.D.G., P.J.R. and L.W. wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lei Wang.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

A correction to this article is available online at https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0275-2.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Supplementary Notes, Supplementary Tables 1–23, Supplementary Figures 1–17, Supplementary References.

Life Sciences Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wei, W., Lu, J.G., Galinsky, A.D. et al. Regional ambient temperature is associated with human personality. Nat Hum Behav 1, 890–895 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-017-0240-0

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing